Guinea pigs can make great pets and are often a fun addition to your home. These furry little guys are social animals however and you really need at least two for them to be happy.
Their bonding process is natural but can look slightly aggressive. That’s why it can lead to some confusion when trying to figure out if your guinea pigs are bonded.
You can tell your guinea pigs are bonded when they groom each other and happily share food. There will also be a lot of cuddling and playing between bonded guinea pigs.
Before guinea pigs bond they may exhibit some aggressive behaviors that can be worrying if you don’t understand what is going on with them.
One will usually try to assert dominance over the other, and you may mistake this for unnecessary aggression rather than the normal process that it is.
When guinea pigs try to establish dominance their aggression towards each other can seem like it goes on for too long.
So you should definitely be aware of their normal dominance behavior so you don’t interfere with this process.
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How Bonded Guinea Pigs Normally Behave
Guinea pigs are normally highly social animals and tend to live as a herd or group in the wild.
There are a variety of behaviors they will exhibit towards each other in social situations and it’s not unusual for them to occasionally have small disagreements over dominance issues.
You only really have a problem if they are persistently aggressive towards each other and possibly cause harm in the process.
Sniffing and nudging each other’s behinds is normal and is just their way of saying hello to each other, as is touching noses.
Parents will often make a cooing sound towards their babies. Sometimes adults will do this with each other too.
Guinea pigs may make a deep purring sound. This indicates that they are happy, especially if their posture is relaxed. A higher-pitched purr with a rise at the end may indicate annoyance, however.
If they are unsure about something they may make a short purr that might involve them freezing in place as they try to figure out the situation.
When bonded guinea pigs are in a happy and playful mood they may do something called popcorning. This means that they abruptly jump up into the air like popcorn popping off.
You generally see this in younger pigs, but older ones may also do it. Males may also rub their genital area along the ground to scent-mark their territory as a sign of dominance.
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How to Tell When Your Guinea Pigs are Bonded
While it can take guinea pigs a while to decide who is boss they should eventually settle down and become comfortable with each other.
Sometimes it can be hard to tell if your guinea pigs are bonded but once this happens you should start to see social behaviors that indicate they are happy and friendly with each other.
Grooming behavior is common, with each grooming the other’s face and fur. They may emit loud happy squeaks and follow their friend around hoping to play.
They should be comfortable eating near each other and be happy to share food and food bowls, though there may be occasional disagreements. This is normal.
Males may mount the submissive member and rub against them. If this doesn’t lead to a fight then they are probably okay.
They may also make a gentle rumbling sound when they are comfortable around each other.
How Long Does it Take for Guinea Pigs to Bond?
Before guinea pigs bond they will probably spend the first fifteen minutes establishing dominance. After that, they will likely take another fifteen minutes or longer to get to know each other.
Full bonding will take place over a longer period but if they are getting along after thirty minutes to an hour then they should be okay together.
In most cases, full bonding will take as long as it takes and can vary depending on the personalities of the pigs and other factors.
If your guinea pigs are taking a while to bond then giving them some more space may help.
Ideally, a pair of pigs should have around seven and a half to ten and a half square feet of space to live and play in. Get them a large cage or give them an area to run around in outside their cage.
If necessary you may need to separate them for a while if they continue to be stressed and aggressive. If they are not getting along then keeping them together in a small area will not help matters.
Bonding can Seem Like Fighting
Aggressive behavior can be common when you introduce two guinea pigs to each other.
Sometimes this can make it hard to tell if they’re playing or if it’s an actual fight. So if you’re unclear of any of those signs, check out one of my posts on knowing the differences between playing and fighting.
Recommended: Are my guinea pigs playing or fighting?
Prior to guinea pigs bonding it’s normal for them to try to establish dominance and work out who’s the boss between them.
They may growl, squeal, chatter their teeth and chase each other, and you may also find that one will mount the other non-sexually. This may just involve the dominant guinea pig clinging or climbing onto the others back.
They may also start rumble strutting where the one establishing dominance will wiggle it’s behind while making a rumbling growl.
This can be a sign of an impending attack depending on how well their bonding is going, so keep an eye on them when they do this. If the one doing this just pounces and then backs off you should be fine.
This is all part of the process of them getting to know each other. If they are not being aggressive to the degree of potentially causing harm then you should just let them get on with this process.
Signs Your Guinea Pigs Aren’t Bonding Well
Signs that things are not going well would be if they nip at each other and possibly draw blood, or if there is aggressive hair pulling. Other signs can include:
- Chattering their teeth
- Raising the hair on their body
- Feet stamping
If one is persistently chattering their teeth at the other then this is also a sign that they are not getting along.
Raised hair and feet stamping are usually signs that an attack is impending, though it is not a good idea to interfere unless needed.
Before guinea pigs bond they need to get this aggression out of their systems and establish dominance in the process.
What if Your Guinea Pigs Don’t Bond?
Those aggressive behaviors mentioned can sometimes lead to them attacking each other in a full-out fight.
So it’s good to know when to separate your guinea pigs that way you’ll be able to tell when to give them some more time to get used to each other in a very calm environment.
Using the split cage method is recommended if your guinea pigs don’t bond correctly but are still slightly compatible.
This is when you separate them from each other and place them back into a split cage where they can continue to get used to each other.
You can use mesh or some small wire fencing to split the cage right down the middle. This is a great solution given that their social animals.
It makes it so they can still see and interact with each other while keeping them separated.
They won’t be able to fully touch each other so you don’t have to worry about leaving them alone together, or any fights breaking out.
If your guinea pigs are even slightly compatible, the split cage method overtime can start the bonding process over again.
That’s because when they have their own private space to live in while still being able to socially interact, it can make it easier for them to try bonding again.
You can tell the split cage method is working and they’re starting to bond when they begin to nest at the wiring so they can be close to each other.
Once you start seeing actions like that along with little to no hostile behavior, you can try removing the wiring or mesh and let them live together normally.
Just be sure to monitor them closely in case they start becoming aggressive to each other again.
The Bonding Process Takes Patience
The process of letting your guinea pigs bond can require some patience and perseverance.
In some cases, you may have to accept that your furry friends have incompatible personalities and are just not meant for each other.
Usually, they will bond just fine and you can eventually leave them to enjoy each others company though.
So if your little furball needs a friend to play with then get them a piggy playmate and let them get to know each other and let the bonding process begin.